Spread the Word are delighted to be supporting Olumide Popoola with Futures in the Making, a new project funded by Arts Council England. 

Through a series of creative writing workshops, Futures in the Making will offer 12 emerging LGBTQ writers the opportunity to deepen their creative practice, get feedback, meet industry professionals and share their work at a showcase at the end of the scheme. We spoke to Olumide to find out more…

Futures in the Making is obviously a brilliant incentive, can you tell me a bit more about what inspired you to set this up and the main drive behind the creation of this project?

A friend was urging me to consider applying for Arts Council funding and when I visualised what I would like doing this idea came up. I have been teaching creative writing for a while but I wanted to do it in a way that was very relevant to my own practice and experiences. I think it’s still hard to write from a Black and queer background and be accepted as just being about ‘the human condition’ rather than being queer black literature. I was very fortunate to work with my publisher, Cassava Republic Press who did not box me in at all, or thought my novel When We Speak of Nothing, which has a trans protagonist, was niche. I want to share this. Being confident that we don’t need to edit our communities’ experiences out to be accepted, or for people to read our work.

It will offer 12 emerging or aspiring prose writers space to write, feedback on their creative work, a chance to meet industry experts and a platform to share their work at a central venue – all of which are absolutely amazing opportunities. How did this format come together?

I wanted to give writers a real opportunity to treat their work professionally. Feedback is one of the important things of that, talking to people who represent different aspects of the industry (university, publishing, writer’s development) is another.

I love my relationship to my editors, and I love being edited. I have also loved workshop environments and the feedback in a group. Ideally the group becomes a safe space from which we can explore and develop our work and our writer selves.

Joelle Taylor and Keith Jarrett will be at the showcase at the end of the project. They’re both incredibly talented writers – how did you get them involved with the project?

Not long before I came up with Futures in the Making, Joelle and I were booked on the same event. I had not seen her perform before and I was absolutely blown away by her deliverance. She is so powerful, truthful and visceral. I also found the themes she is addressing very important and I wanted someone who deals with working class issues in their work.

I have always admired Keith’s soft spoken, yet precisely attuned and hitting voice and words. I have known his work for much longer than Joelle’s because I used to do spoken word. He writes in different genres, which I love, and is just excellent at what he does.

I’m sure both will be an inspiration to the writers on the scheme.

As the course leader, what do you want the selected applicants to get out of the scheme and in which ways do you envision the course impacting their creative work?

I want them to be confident and proud as writers. I would really love a strong group mentality, a feeling that we are in this together to grow, as writers. For people to consider writing in a professional manner, especially people whose stories are often pushed to the margins and not celebrated simply as ‘the human condition,’ networks of supportive like-minded people can be even more important than for anyone else starting on their creative journey. That sense of support and ultimately understanding can make our work soar and shine in new ways.

What advice do you have for facilitators looking to set up similar projects to really reinforce opportunities for writers out there? And why is it, in your opinion, so important that projects such as Futures in the Making are out there?

I think a good starting point is our own experience and needs. What would I have loved when I was starting out, or on the cusps of treating my work “more professionally”? What is my unique experience, something that I think I am good at but that can also offer others support in many ways?

Futures in the Making addresses the lack of diverse voices in the publishing world. Although we’re not publishing anything as part of the scheme, I of course hope that the participants will go on to publish work. LGBTQ+ voices are unrepresented, so are BAME voices, both as writers and in the actual work. Futures in the making is about making some space to create work that can eventually take place at the publishing table (hopefully).

And finally Olumide, as you’ll be co-selecting participants for the project, can you give writers who are looking to apply some top tips in putting their application together?

I’m all about voice. What draws me in is really “feeling” or “hearing” a text, a piece of writing. Think about the tone of the piece. Who is the narrator or who is it about? As the application does not allow long texts I would select a piece (or extract) that demonstrates what the piece is about both in plot/content and voice.

Find out more about Futures in the Making here

photo of Olumide Popoola © Deborah Moses-Sanks


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